I began last week a consideration of the importance of the church. We live in a time when the local church has been denigrated in the culture … and not always without cause. Because there are imperfect people in the church, abuses and scandals happen far too often. The accusation that the church is filled with hypocrites certainly has some truth to it. And then there are those “churches” that preach hate and protest the funerals of fallen soldiers. If someone is looking for a reason to shoot at the church, there is no shortage of ammunition to use.
Before we jump on the bandwagon, let’s consider one of the biblical terms used for the church – the bride of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Here we read something vitally important to our understanding of the church. We learn that Jesus loves the church! In spite of her problems and imperfections, Jesus loves the church. Remember that the church is not a building, an organization or a denomination; the church is the people of God, the body of Christ, the community of believers. Jesus is not infatuated with our programs or edifices; but He loves us! We are the community of the dearly loved.
Jesus loves us the way a faithful husband loves his wife. He is constantly seeking what is best for us. His desire is that we fulfill our purpose and reach our potential. He looks forward to the day that He can present us to His Father without spot or blemish.
Any discussion of the church should begin the fact that, in spite of our problems, Jesus loves His church … and so should we. We can be honest about the imperfections we see, but we should tread carefully when it comes to being critical or condemning. The church is Jesus’ bride. I don’t want anyone bad-mouthing my bride, and I am sure that Jesus doesn’t want anyone bad-mouthing His!